Blogging has three main uses: personal expression, professional development, and class crowdsourcing. Personal blogs are popular—sites like WordPress, tumblr, and Blogspot provide forums to express opinions, share information, and network with people who share similar interests. On these sites, you can “follow” users whose posts you like, and as the person blogs, their posts will be sent directly to your inbox. Bloggers can tag and categorize their posts so that other bloggers can find posts about their interests. Users receive feedback through comments, likes, and views, all available through the “site stats” on WordPress. The barriers to expression are low—regular accounts are free, and all one has to do is type and hit “publish.”
You can also use blogs for professional development. A person can build a professional website through WordPress, e.g. Paying for a domain name (mine would be $17/year) and professional options, job seekers can post resumes, professional headshots, sample work, biography information for potential employers to review. These options are particularly valuable for writers, musicians, and visual artists, who all benefit from being able to share their work online. Examples can be found at melsphotos.tumblr.com. spurriermusic.com, and katiegoodrich.com.
But most applicable to education and technology are course blogs. I have had at least three courses involving class blogs: two French classes and an English class. My English class required a certain number of blogs about our readings, then a certain number of responses to other writers’ posts. This system avoided the dread online forum/thread on so many eCollege courses. Students had more freedom in what they posted and how they posted. My first French course utilizing a blog (lebavard.wordpress.com) benefited from teaching students how to post, how to tag, how to categorize so that students had a rudimentary understanding of how to publish online while getting practice in French composition skills. The other course created benefits of crowdsourcing. Students are supposed to follow French news, but because the abundance of news through large media outlets (televised, articles, etc), no one student could possibly take in all the French news every day. So we each post one blog a week, and we each have a “beat”—mine is education, while others write about politics or health. This way, we all benefit from the collective research and media knowledge of others.
Although my Editing and Publishing course included a website at the end to which all students contributed, students received no practice in building a website, creating an account, or publishing online. Although organizing content was simplified, students lost the community feel of reading others’ posts and feeling like their own contributions mattered. With such low barriers to expression and how easily one can create an account, professors and teachers can use blogs to connect students. My teachers have primarily used one of two methods—1) invite students to become members of one blog or 2) ask students to post the link to their personal blog so that other students can visit, read, and comment.